Watch One-Handed Guitar Hero John Denner Play Van Halen’s ‘Eruption’
Van Halen‘s ‘Eruption‘ is widely recognized as one of the most badass electric guitar instrumentals of all time — the song so amazing it immediately revealed young Eddie Van Halen as one of the rock world’s most exciting virtuosos. Watching Ed play it is always fun, but now ‘Eruption’ has been taken to an entirely new level by a guitarist you may never have heard of.
His name is John Denner, and he’s a pretty unlikely-seeming guitar hero, given that he was born without a right hand. But something kept calling him to the instrument, and as he related in an interview with All Out Guitar (which is well worth a complete read), he eventually figured out a way to play. “There weren’t any role models for what I wanted to do,” explained Denner. “I came up with the idea that as long as I had something that would enable me to strum a note with my right arm, I could make it happen with my left hand and be able to fret the actual notes, so I came up with the concept of literally taping a pick to my right arm.”
But even once Denner overcame that obstacle, he faced another — the feeling that, as he admitted, “I was a little worried about what people might think. As I said, I really didn’t have any role models, and I really didn’t know how it would be accepted — so I stopped. Out of fear, basically.”
It took years for Denner to find his way back to the guitar, but with the passage of time and a lot of support from his wife, he eventually decided to pick it up again; watching the above video, we can all be thrilled he did, because he’s got an incredible gift, and watching him surmount his significant physical obstacle is inspiring for anyone who’s ever let fear talk them out of doing something they really wanted to do. You can check out more of Denner’s videos, including clips from his clinics and instructional DVDs, at his YouTube channel.
Denner isn’t alone in his determination, either. Guitarist Tony Memmel was born without a left forearm, and pursued a similar path to teaching himself how to play, devising a homemade prosthetic out of tape. Memmel’s new single, ‘I Know We’ll Get There,’ was recently released after being performed on VH1. Check it out, and quit saying “can’t.”